Union rights to select OHS representatives

The following is a letter sent by John Edmunds to our Locals, explaining the Union’s right to chose its own OHS representatives.

It has been drawn to my attention by the USGE National Executive Health and Safety Committee and by the members in certain quarters that a number of departments are not entirely in compliance with the provisions related to the appointment of OSH (occupational health and safety) representatives or OSH Committee members under the Canada Labour Code, Part II, Health and Safety.

The Canada Labour Code, Part II, Health and Safety states the following (emphasis added):

135. (1) For the purposes of addressing health and safety matters that apply to individual work places, and subject to this section, every employer shall, for each work place controlled by the employer at which twenty or more employees are normally employed, establish a work place health and safety committee and, subject to section 135.1, select and appoint its members.

135.1 (1) Subject to this section, a policy committee or a work place committee shall consist of at least two persons and at least half of the members shall be employees who

  1. do not exercise managerial functions; and
  2. subject to any regulations made under subsection 135.2(1), have been selected by
    1. the employees, if the employees are not represented by a trade union, or
    2. the trade union representing employees, in consultation with any employees who are not so represented.

136. (1) Every employer shall, for each work place controlled by the employer at which fewer than twenty employees are normally employed or for which an employer is not required to establish a work place committee, appoint the person selected in accordance with subsection (2) as the health and safety representative for that work place.(2) The health and safety representative for a work place shall be selected as follows:

  1. the employees at the work place who do not exercise managerial functions shall select from among those employees the person to be appointed; or
  2. if those employees are represented by a trade union, the trade union shall select the person to be appointed, in consultation with any employees who are not so represented, and subject to any regulations made under subsection (11).

The employees or the trade union shall advise the employer in writing of the name of the person so selected.

(3) If a trade union fails to select a person under subsection (2), a health and safety officer may so notify in writing the local branch of the trade union. The officer shall send a copy of the notification to the trade union’s national or international headquarters and to the employer.

(4) The employer shall perform the functions of the health and safety representative until a person is selected under subsection (2).

In other words, while it is the responsibility of the employer to make the formal appointment of an OSH representative or OSH committee member, the employer does not have the right to appoint someone who does not have the approval of the trade union/s (in our case, the USGE Local) unless the trade unions fail to appoint a representative from amongst their respective membership.

(It should be noted that most departments have more than one trade union on site and consultation amongst the trade unions is necessary to ensure that each trade union has a representative on each OSH committee and that consultation amongst the trade unions takes place for selection of the Employee Co-Chair for the OSH Committee.)

It is very important that the membership of USGE protect its rights under the Canada Labour Code, Part II, Health and Safety and continues to have a role and voice in matters of health and safety. In order to address concerns, I am requesting that each Local review and confirm that the individuals currently serving as employee representatives or committee members at their work sites have the mandate of their Local and to provide the answers to the following questions to your RVP and to the Technical Advisor for OSH, Robin Kers, as soon as possible.

In solidarity,
John Edmunds, National President